There is more than one way to hole a putt

Do you only see the ball going in the hole one way? We join Gary Nicol up at Archerfield Links to show you that you are limiting to yourself to just one option when putting.

Gary explains in the below visual that there is actually room for three golf balls to go in the hole at the same time depending on the pace and line.

The ball on the far right has a much slower ball speed but a different line where it drops into the hole on the right side. That is now your entry point for that specific putt.

The middle balls entry point is a little closer to the middle. It has a slightly faster ball speed and a more straight line.

The ball on the left has the fastest ball speed and with this one you are effectively taking all of the break out of the putt.

Gary adds:

“If you concentrate solely on the line you are limiting yourself to just one option. Whereas if you think more about the pace then you have three different ways the ball can go in the hole.

Concentrating just on the line will mean if you are just a centimetre off the ball won’t drop.”

Watch the video at the top of the page for Gary’s full explanation.

Five keys to dealing with pressure on the course

Basketball star Charles Barkley was fond of saying: “Pressure? That is what I put into my car tyres.”

We can hear statements like this as well as other experts telling us that pressure doesn’t really exist and it is just a construct of our mind but try telling that to yourself when you have a putt to win the club championship.

We all feel pressure in different ways but one thing is for sure for most people; it tends to have a detrimental effect on performance.

The number one complaint I have heard over the many years of coaching is that “I can’t take my range game to the golf course”.

Over the years I have found the following ideas some of the most useful in dealing with pressure and how you personally experience it.

Have a look at the five options and see which seems to resonate with you personally.

The ideas may not make the feeling of discomfort disappear but they will give you a way of getting the job done and you will feel you are getting a lot closer to your true potential.

1. Make a pre-round commitment

Once you get out on the course and the chaos takes over, it is very difficult to steady the ship if you don’t have a firm commitment established before you play.

One of the most important questions you can ever ask is ‘What am I committed to today?’

Write out your answer to the question. If you commit, for example, to checking in with your breath before every shot you are so much more likely to do it with the pre-round commitment.

Writing it out as opposed to just saying it or thinking it is paramount.

2. Embrace the ‘feelings’

It is a myth that great players don’t feel nervous or uncomfortable out on the course. They do!

The key is to realise that you can still play well in the presence of discomfort if you know where to direct your attention.

If we label the ‘feelings’ as energy instead of nerves then we take on a totally different perspective. We then embrace the discomfort and work with it as opposed to being scared of the feeling.

3. The power of perspective

patrick reed ryder cup

It may seem to us that this round is the most important activity in all of mankind but frankly it isn’t!

If you play great and win then after it is over life will still be the same and by the same measure you will still be the same if you play awful.

We are far more resilient than we think. You will get over a bad day. You will recover and move on.

Paradoxically if you are prepared to accept the worst then you open the door to the possibility of the best.

4. Keep things very simple

One thing that is for absolute sure is when you are feeling the heat of the game your thinking needs to be very clear and simple.

To be out there on the course trying to influence your backswing or downswing in terms of positions is a fool’s errand.

To keep the mind in one place, be that on rhythm or balance, will be far more productive than getting lost in technical noise.

A quiet mind can deal with pressure whilst a busy one tends to collapse.

5. Stop thinking and come to your senses – to steal the wonderful phrase from Fritz Perls

Most of the pressure we feel is a result of the mind trying to predict a future we have absolutely no control over.

The mind is always busy trying to hold on to what it thinks should happen. An imaginary future that is not here yet.

When you tune in to your senses you are able to calm things down and get back to the here and now.

What senses can you tune into? What about the feeling of your feet as you walk down the fairway. The sounds of nature you can tune in to.

The list is endless but as you tune into what you can feel, see or hear you ground yourself in the only moment that really matters now.

In many ways the ideas above are ridiculously simple, they are what I call the ‘elusive obvious’. They are so obvious we don’t do them!

Giving the ideas a try out with the clients I have worked with over the years, they have made a significant difference to their experience of the game.

Does the ball roll at a constant speed when putting?

What are your initial thoughts when stood over a putt? If you are focusing on the start line we would strongly advise that you rethink that strategy. Gary Nicol is on hand to explain how to improve your putting, with the help of Trackman Performance software.

“If you focus on the last few feet of the putt rather than the start line you get a better idea of how the speed should be as the ball approaches the hole.”

Why the course isn’t your main opponent when playing golf

Who of the current list of top players do you really like to watch playing golf?

Rory McIlroy in full flow is a sight to behold – letting the driver rip and smashing the ball prodigious distances.

Justin Rose seems to be able to plot his way around the course better than most and his level of consistency over the past few years has been extraordinary.

It was wonderful at The Open to see Tiger Woods hit the front again and his recent second place in the PGA Championship gave a strong hint he may be close again to some of his former glory.

For me though, I love to watch Bubba Watson play the game of golf. From a mental game perspective, his creativity out on the course is extraordinary.

To see him standing on a tee and bending a tee shot from right to left or from left to right in huge parabolic arcs is just a joy.

I would love to see inside the screen of Bubba’s mind and see just what he sees when he looks at a hole and decides what shot he is going to use from his vast armoury to get to the hole in the least possible strokes.

He supposedly has never had a golf lesson, which may or may not be true, but he certainly plays the game with a unique and refreshing freedom.

He is playing golf as the authentic Bubba as opposed to trying to be someone else.

Not for one minute am I saying everyone should try to emulate Watson as this would be equally as inauthentic as trying to swing exactly like Adam Scott or Tommy Fleetwood.

Bubba Watson WITB

As I have said many times before both in articles and on my podcast, this game is not about finding THE way to play but more about uncovering YOUR way to play.

When I ask young players I work with, “Who is your opponent?”, they often say, “The course”, and whilst I tell them it is close it isn’t, for me, the right answer.

When you play golf your opponent is the course designer. The person who designed your course has an objective in that he or she wants you to drop shots and not make pars or birdies.

Otherwise, all courses would have no bunkers, no rough, no trees or water. All of the hazards have been put in place by the designer to coax you into making mistakes.

However, when you see the course designer as your opponent you begin to look at the game very differently.

You begin to really look at the holes on your course and see what he or she is trying to get you to do. Once you look at it this way you can then begin to get creative.

If you approach every hole with a view to answering the question, ‘How do I beat the course designer here?’, you then can formulate your own unique plan to navigate your way around the golf course.

How do you beat the course designer? You decide the best way for you to play a certain hole and then you create golf shots.

Just like Bubba does in a very extreme way, you decide personally relative to your own game and your own ability how you are best going to navigate the ball from point A to point B.

When you think of the game this way you take back ownership of your game. You follow the beat of your own drum.

If you think that the best way to beat the course designer on this particular hole with your particular game is to hit a 5-iron off the tee then go ahead and do it.

If you have the tightest tee shot in the world where everyone plays safe but the best club in your bag is a driver and you can thread it through the eye of a needle then go with your play and not just how you ‘should’ play the hole.

Become fascinated by the course and the designer and then become absorbed in creating the best shot for you to play in this moment to execute your own plan.

Be prepared to experiment, be prepared to fail, but above all, reconnect with the lost art of creativity and stop trying to be a perfect robot that you will probably never be.

Why it’s so important to hit your putts out the centre

How much do off-centre strikes with your putter affect the roll? We join Gary Nicol up at Archerfield for some putting tips using Trackman software to validate the data.

“What do you use an alignment aid on your putter for? Many amateurs use the alignment aid to simply line up the ball, but forget that it can help them simply find the middle of the putter.

With having lines on the ball it can be really easy to start matching those lines up with the alignment aid and forget about where the centre of the clubface is.”

Gary asked Michael to hit three putts, one out of the centre, one out of the heel and a final strike from the toe. He then measured each putt with the Trackman performance software. The results are below…

As you can see from the results the centre-striked putt traveled an extra four feet and made it past the hole, the two poor strikes came up two feet short of the target.

You will also notice a very similar ball speed from the two poor strikes in comparison to the faster ball speed of the good strike…

Hitting a  putt out of the centre sounds like an obvious ting you need to do, but many amateurs can get too fixated on the line. Even if you get the line right, if you don’t strike the centre of the putter face the chances are you won’t hole the putt.

Why getting the right line isn’t the most important aspect of putting

When it comes to putting, which is more important, line or pace?

This is a question we ask every golfer we work with on their putting. After a bit of deliberation, virtually everyone agrees that pace takes top spot as pace determines line.

So why is it that once we get out on the golf course, as soon as we step on to the greens our attention turns to line?

When you hit your tee shot down the fairway on any given hole, once you get to your ball, the first thing you want to know is how far you have to the green and/or the hole. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? However, once we cross the border from fairway to green, all that goes out the window and we starting “reading the line”.

Unless you have an idea of how long the putt is and if it is uphill, downhill and how fast the greens are, how on earth can you pick a line?

In our book, The Lost Art Of Putting, Karl Morris and I talk a lot about line and pace and reading greens. In fact, we devote an entire chapter to both.

It is our contention that pace determines the line. In fact we would go so far as to say that without the correct or appropriate pace, the line does not or cannot exist. Pace gives you options on line, whereas line limits you to one pace, perfect pace. How do you fancy your chances with that?

We saw a fantastic example of that when eventual winner of the Scottish Open Brandon Stone curled in a 40 foot eagle putt on the 16th green en route to shooting a final round of 60.

The Sky coverage showed an overlay graphic of his options on line which varied from relatively straight to almost 10 feet of break, depending on the pace he hit it. Stone chose the latter and the ball dropped in the front edge with just enough pace for gravity to take it’s course.

For the ball to go into the hole, which is our ultimate aim, the ball has to have a relationship with momentum and gravity. The diagram below shows that the effective size of the hole changes according to the pace of the putt you hit, therefore making pace your number one priority if you are to experience any kind of success on the greens.

How often have you hit a 15 foot putt that is travelling bang on line only to come up two feet short or trundle three feet past? If you are like most golfers, your immediate reaction will be along the lines of, “That was such a good putt, I just didn’t quite get the pace right.” Because we tend to relate our putts to the line we hit it on, we console ourselves that it was indeed a good putt, apart from the pace.

However, if you were to miss the same 15-foot putt by two feet to the left or three feet left of the hole, you would probably be disgusted with yourself. Why? Again because you are relating the outcome of your putts to line rather than pace.

We’re not saying that line isn’t important, of course it is but the next time you go to the putting green or out on the golf course, pay more attention to pace and you’ll find that not only will your distance control improve, chances are your line will too as a direct result.

Get the pace right and those enormously frustrating three putts will soon be a thing of the past and you might just start holing a few more birdie putts as well.

OUT NOW – The Lost Art of Putting

Does the stroke create the putt or does the putt create the stroke?

This is a fundamental question examined in the brand new book on putting written by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol

Titled ‘ The Lost Art of Putting’ Karl and Gary explore what could be getting in the way of you being so much better on the greens.

  • Have you spent a great deal of time trying to ‘perfect’ your stroke? Yet you seem to hole nothing.
  • Are you obsessed with start lines?
  • Do you have a house full of putting ‘gadgets’. Yet never seem to get many putts falling into the cup.
  • Has your putting got progressively worse over the years?

Then this is the book for you!!

With over 60 years combined coaching experience at the very highest level, Karl and Gary bring a refreshingly new perspective to the putting arena.

Having coached numerous Major winning and Ryder Cup golfers the ‘putting performance principles’ in this book have been tested at every level of the game

Full of practical and applicable advice ‘The Lost Art of Putting’ contains ideas to transform your putting from the very next time you play.

This book will help you become more child-like on the greens and less childish. The game of golf is not about finding ‘the’ way to do it but more a case of discovering, or perhaps more importantly uncovering, ‘your’ way to do it. The perspective and concepts they share with you in this book have the potential to liberate you so that you can experience what you are truly capable of on the greens.

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Get those long putts close every time with Paul Lawrie

Judging distance when putting can be a complicated part of the game. Eight time European Tour winner and former Ryder Cup star Paul Lawrie gives us a few putting tips on how to become more confident on the greens.

One of the main things you need to do is put towards your target circle of 3-4 feet. If you get the ball inside there you can feel confident about tidying up.

Watch the video above for more tips from Paul Lawrie on distance putting.

Hole those short putts every time with Paul Lawrie

Are you struggling when you leave yourself a four-footer? Need some short putt tips? Eight-time European Tour winner and former Ryder Cup star Paul Lawrie gives us a few tips on how to become more confident on the greens.

Watch the video above for Lawrie’s advice on nailing those tricky ones every time…